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Geoff Wappett’s Etape du Tour

Five years ago, on the 31st March 2009, at just 34 years old, my friend Barry Jones lost his fight to cancer. A fantastic mate, husband, father, son, brother, colleague and data salesman...many of us lost a very good friend that tragic day.

He touched loads of hearts and was always the "life and soul" of any gathering, whether it be work or play. He lived life to the full, and I'm so glad he did, "live every day as if it's last your last, as one day it will be". This is what Barry did, and what we all should you never know what’s round the corner.

In his final weeks, The Hospice of St Francis offered amazing care and support for Barry and his family, at a very difficult time.

The Hospice of St Francis needs charitable donations to keep this level of support going, however it doesn’t have the brand names of leading charities that receive significantly more support. I urge you to support local charities like this that need our help that in turn could help us, our friends or family in the future.

I always said I'd do something mad to raise valuable funds for the Hospice and for me…...this is MAD! Geoff Wappett 3On Sunday 20th July 2014 I took part in the Etape du Tour, an annual prestigious cycling event based around a mountain stage of the Tour du France. This year it was Stage 18, which included the infamous Tourmalet and Hautacam climbs. The Etape was on the Sunday and the professionals did the stage on the following Thursday –it was exactly the same (except the weather).

This was the toughest day of my life!

8 months ago I bought a bike (I have not been on a bike since I was 14 and back then it was a BMX - I have never had a road bike) and started training in the heart of winter, Christmas eve to be exact, which was not ideal – cold and dark!

I had to re-learn how to ride a bike first - 30 gears, clip in pedals, painful saddle, traffic lights, roundabouts, cars etc. etc. All in all I did 2,000km of training (39 rides) and made significant progress given where I started before tackling the Etape – my 40th ride.

Geoff Wappett Weather Screen Shot The day started with a 04.45am alarm call and departure from Lourdes to Pau. The day was looking good, and thoughts that the weather forecast was wrong gave me more hope.

Sadly, after 3hrs the expected weather forecast hit with a vengeance. The heavy rain started and never stopped. It makes you heavier and colder, and as you climb up two mountains (both ski resorts, Tourmalet - 2,115m / Hautacam - 1,560m), and as you climb, it gets colder and colder, and when you descend it's SO much colder with wind chill speed downhill, which was slow for me as it was so dangerous.

Geoff Wappett 4I couldn’t feel my hands, which is dangerous for breaking and steering and my body was shivering and shaking on the 35km (80 min decent) of the Tourmalet. This was my lowest point, and the lowest point and the area where most gave up.

Bikes were left behind all over the course, ambulance sirens were going all day, and I sady saw a lot of 'claret' on the roads and people on stretchers.

To put the day into perspective, 3,500 people of 13,000 starters did not finish (26%) and most people in these types of events are pretty serious athletes. I managed to finish 7,737 of the 9,876 FINISHERS

Geoff Wappett 1Your awesome support throughout helped drive me on. I had to dig deeper than I ever knew was possible and I'm still in shock that I completed that torturous event.

So far we've raised a brilliant £5,015 plus GIFT AID of £892!

Thank you to everyone who supported me. Your kindness is invaluable to The Hospice of St Francis as it was for my state of mind in assisting me complete this challenge!

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